Hong Kong needs to give its young artists a chance to shine

Ken Chu says with more effective government support, a better training and education system for young talent, and platforms offering them exposure, the city can be a major force in the arts world

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 May, 2016, 4:00pm

The Hong Kong government and the Arts Development Council allocate huge amounts of money to foster development of the arts community and artistic talent. But, like any system, the funding mechanism is full of red tape and shortcomings. Emerging local artists often complain about huge difficulties in obtaining public subsidies. They feel frustrated at the preponderance of such subsidies allocated to performing artists and art groups, particularly those who are already well established, and contend that performing arts such as dance, orchestras and ballet are traditionally in the spotlight. If this is the case, perhaps we should balance the allocation of public funds to different forms of art?

Offering more support to our youth with a passion for arts is also a way to maximise the potential of our creative industry.

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The government spends a lot of public money on arts education, from primary to tertiary level. Art is part of the public university entrance exam, and can be studied independently at Chinese University and Baptist University, and we will soon have a major visual arts museum at the West Kowloon Cultural District. The local arts scene looks dynamic and bright.

However, the majority of parents are still prejudiced against the arts, seeing only the negative in such a career. Therefore, children are almost always discouraged from pursuing the arts or are forced to abandon their interest in it.

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Yet, despite this, antique collecting and the artwork auction market are thriving in Hong Kong, and a career in this field requires a solid understanding of art.

Hong Kong could be a regional arts hub, especially given the fast-growing number of modern artists and collectors in China. Indeed, many international auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s have established a presence in Hong Kong.

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Sadly, there are few locals working for these international brands, largely because there is insufficient training in our arts education curriculum. Courses in art techniques and theory, art history, gallery and museum management and cross-cultural studies could be offered in our schools.

If we can nurture more local artists and train more local professionals in the arts industry, we will create many employment opportunities for our young generation.

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Offering financial support and sufficient education and training is just one of the many steps needed to foster a thriving arts scene in Hong Kong; our promising young artists also need exposure and opportunities. The MTR Corporation has been bringing local art to the public at various station concourses, and this is the sort of opportunity our emerging artists desperately need to raise their profile and public awareness.

The Mission Hills Group has devoted 300,000 sq ft at its integrated development – MH Centreville in Shenzhen – to young budding artists, designers, handicraft makers, innovators and entrepreneurs, not only from Hong Kong but also from the mainland and Taiwan, to learn and set up their workshops and businesses, to be exposed to and share new ideas with others and, above all, benefit from the mainland market.

Our young artists and creators deserve a chance to broaden their horizons, and I hope one day that connoisseurs and art collectors from all over the world will come to Hong Kong to enjoy and purchase their work. After all, arts and culture could be key export earners.

Dr Ken Chu is group chairman and CEO of the Mission Hills Group and a National Committee member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference